42 years, and still healing

I still remember the eruption of Mt St Helens vividly. I was living in Eugene, Oregon at the time, where we mainly experienced it as annoying chronic ash falls, but I was recently married and my wife’s family all lived in Longview and Vader, towns not far from the volcano. We got in a little volcano tourism that summer.

It was catastrophic, but also an opportunity. Researchers have been thoroughly studying that area ever since, documenting how nature recovers. You can still see the scars, but it’s impressive how much the landscape has bounced back.

Sequence of images showing geomorphic and vegetation change at a site in upper Smith Creek valley that received 50 centimeters of blast PDC and tephra fall deposits. Vegetation initially sprouted from surviving rootstocks in pre-eruption soils that, after the eruption, were re-exposed in the floors of gullies eroded through the new deposits. By 1994, trees were established on the hillside between the gullies and both surviving and colonizing species anchor the sediments. Helicopter circled for scale in the top two images. Credit: F. J. Swanson, U.S. Forest Service

We should pay a call on the area again sometime. Unfortunately, my in-laws have either died or moved away now, so sometimes nature can get better, but on a small scale, it can get worse.


  1. davidc1 says

    Didn’t a rugged amurican refuse to move out of the danger area,and was praised by rambling ron
    for doing so.
    Then when it erupted he was killed,which was a bit of a shocker.

  2. JM says

    @1 davidc1: Yes but it’s only assumed he died. His house is now under 100+ feet of debris so nobody has actually checked.

  3. says

    I guess he could still be running an underground child-sex-trafficking ring from a network of tunnels the Clintons helped him dig under all that debris. I mean, that would be a perfect cover, right? Who would guess such a crazy possibility? Oh wait, I just did…time for THE STORM!!!

  4. Rich Woods says

    You’ve drawn the short straw with Mount St Helens. In Italy when a volcano erupts they plant new vineyards a couple of years after the volcanic ash has settled down and profit from an exceptional vintage ten years later.

  5. BACONSQAUDgaming says

    I first visited Mount St. Helen’s in 1994, and it was still mostly a wasteland. I visited again after the Oregon eclipse, and I was shocked at how much it had recovered. At the rate things are changing, they are going to need to put up billboards at different sites showing how it changed over the years, otherwise people won’t realize the extent of the devastation.

  6. davidc1 says

    @2&3 You may be right,keep it to yourselves the conspiracy wackaloons would just lap that up.
    @4 Hi,my mockery didn’t include scientists like that poor chap.

  7. outis says

    @5: indeed they do that, but it’s not all roses. I remember some idiot on the news trying to interview a weeping farmer about his vineyard on Mount Etna going up in flames, right while it was happening. And some years ago they had to battle mightily in order to save a very popular mountain hut by raising berms around it.
    There’s even a MC Escher litography showing a house half-engulfed in frozen lava, again on Etna.
    Them volcanoes don’t play around.

  8. dorght says

    I toured the Mount St. Helens and the surrounding area in the early 90s. I was amazed at all the devastation. What the eruption did was pretty bad too. The volcano’s destruction was pretty minor in comparison to the logging companies.

  9. whheydt says

    Re: outis @ #8…
    Trying to protect man-made works with berms/dikes/whathaveyou from lava flows has a long and almost completely unsuccessful history. The two exceptions I can think of were both accomplished in Iceland. One was the effort to save the harbor at Heimaey which succeeded partly because the eruption ended when it did. The other was the (known to be temporary) block of lava flows last year at the eruption in Geldingadalur and the diversion dike to prevent the flow from heading straight for Grindavik.
    The Icelanders were also clever enough to do tests involving the blocked flows by burying fiber optic cables “upstream” of at least one berm and monitoring to see how long the cable lasted. This was to plan for how deep to re-bury one of their main optic cables in an area that it was expected the lava flows would cover. In the end, the flows didn’t get that far before the eruption ended.

  10. davidc1 says

    @9 Thanks for that.

    “He loved discussing politics and reportedly hated Republicans, hippies, young children, and the elderly”.
    I found that surprising.He also had 16 cats,he could have made sure they were safe,selfish old coot.